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On Wednesday, May 10, a question about the proposed Squannacook River Rail Trail will be put before the voters of Townsend. This is a non-binding question, but its passage is critical if this project is to move forward.

This proposed trail would run from Townsend Harbor to Depot Street in the center of Townsend. This route would connect two of the largest population centers in town and would provide a safe alternative to Route 119 for accessing many of the town’s commercial areas and institutions. In addition, a flat Rail Trail is ideally-suited to recreational use by families, strollers, the physically-challenged, older residents and others.

The most recent federal highway bill contains funding for the design and construction of rail trails across the United States. Federal money would cover 80 percent of design and construction costs, and 20 percent would need to be matched by the state. No local funding for construction is required. Congressman Olver has earmarked approximately $4 milieu for four north-central Massachusetts rail trails including this proposed project. Maintenance costs would be a town responsibility, but are estimated at between $1400 and $4800 a year and can be offset by private grants and/or local fund-raising as well as by an “Adopt a section of the Rail Trail” which is already in the works.

The nearby Nashua River Rail Trail has shown that a such a trail can be a good neighbor to abutters. Initial problems with parking along that Rail Trail have been overcome, and have taught the lesson that well-marked, quality parking facilities are a key to a successful Rail Trail. For abutters with privacy concerns, fencing and/or hedges can be installed as part of construction. For particularly close abutters, these barriers could be placed close to the Rail Trail, effectively ceding a significant amount of MBTA land for the private use of the abutter.

Much more information on this proposed project is available at www.SquannacookRiverRailTrail.org. We urge everyone in Townsend to learn as much as possible about this proposed project, and then vote on May 10.

NASHUA RIVER WATERSHED ASSOCIATION

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